This past weekend the 2010 Hincapie Development squad got together for the first time. Excitement had been building for the riders the week before and the U23 riders were chomping at the bit to throw a leg over the new Shimano Dura-Ace, Ritchey and Thomson equipped BMC Pro Machine. This was going to be my first time meeting the riders as a mentor/coach for the team. The Hincapie’s have been spending their time and resources on developing future American talents and it was starting to come to fruition. Craig Lewis, now a member f the HTC-Columbia squad, got his start on a team sponsored by Hincapie Sportswear. Chris Butler, a member of the Hincapie Devo team last year who made the jump to BMC for 2010, is heading off to the team training camp in California at the end of the month. Strad Helms is another rider from the Hincapie Development class of ’09 that made the jump to the big leagues joining Team Type 1 for 2010. With that kind of track record this year’s crop of U23 riders should be showing results.
Friday night was the first official team meeting. And like any professional organization there were certain rules and regulations that are expected of the riders. As I sat there I thought how similar this was to other pro team training camps I’d attended. Just before forms were filled out and swag bags passed out Steve Baker, Hincapie team liaison/mentor, reminded the riders how important this opportunity was to them. He also relayed the fact how important it was to the team that no one drops out of a race unless it’s an injury or mechanical failure. “George doesn’t quit a race.” Baker said. I thought about that and I couldn’t think of an instance when George Hincapie headed to the broom wagon because he’s been dropped or when the race wasn’t going his way. The times he hasn’t finished a race was when he had crashed out and was physically unable to cross the finish line. Crossing the finish line, or completing what you say you are going to do, is an important trait for the Hincapies whether in a race or in the business world. Hopefully the riders on the team will pick up on this type of work ethic and transfer it to their daily lives.
Saturday was a team training day and George met the squad to lead the ride. This Tuesday he packs his bags and leaves for the Tour Down Under, so he still needed to log training miles. The temperature in the morning was in the 20s. Thick tights, insulated jackets, shoe covers and full finger gloves were the bare essentials for the day. Our group had swelled to over 20 riders which included almost the entire Hincapie Devo team, as well as also mentor riders and supporters. We rolled down the road, riding two abreast, George at the front keeping a steady tempo. I have ridden with pros before and I am always in awe of how easily they flick over the pedals as if the cranks were just an extension of their legs. George is no exception and kept the pace constant and unwavering. Beyond the smooth nature of Hincapie’s pedaling I also noticed new BMC rider Chris Butler’s style. Butler’s pedaling is just as fluid, however his body is more compact than George – the obvious morphology of a climber with the results to back it up. Butler is a student at Furman University in Greenville and had planned on missing part of the upcoming BMC camp. That has changed and he is going to attend the full training camp, which means recon rides of key Tour of California stages. The new devo riders showed the potential that caught the eye of Hincapie Sportswear and showed a certain amount of souplesse as we ticked over the miles. None of the riders had hunched shoulders and sloppy pedaling technique even after several hours in the saddle. When it was all said and done my Garmin 705 laid out the facts: we’d ridden for three and a half hours, 60 miles total and with an elevation gain of 5,800 feet (twice over Paris Mountain). Not too bad. I didn’t hear any whining or complaining from any of the riders, even when we made that left hand turn to climb over Paris Mountain for the second time.
The following day was a shorter ride with George again riding point. While the previous day’s ride was well over 20 riders, Sunday’s was down to the devo riders, mentors and George. We zig-zaged across the Upstate with seemingly no rhyme or reason. George apparently knew where we were going as he confidently and without hesitation pointed which way to turn. He must have the innate gps-like ability of a homing pigeon as I had no idea where we were. I have written this before and I’ll say it again; I don’t know why most pros don’t live in this area. The conditions are fantastic. Sure we’re in the middle of an unusual cold snap, but when dressed for the conditions, it isn’t that much of a hardship. And I can count on one hand how many cars we encountered once we were out of town.
After about an hour and 40 minutes George and Chris Butler turned right, heading to the six-mile climb of Caesar’s Head. For those two it was another long day in the saddle, but for us it was time to head for home. With riders coming from all over the southeast, a few riders were facing several hours drive back home. Back at the starting point it was a little over two hours, but with some heavy legs from the previous day, that was enough. It’s only January and a lot of racing is still in front of them.
It was a great weekend of riding. We rode, swapped stories and consumed massive amounts of well deserved calories together. Some riders knew each other and the staff, but for me it was a great opportunity to get acquainted with the riders and be a part of something that these guys will always remember.
Hincapie Sportswear Development Roster
Hincapie photo by Chris Anderson